It really was a
beautiful tree. Taller than most, with a richness of color that Spike suspected
might be magically enforced. Not a single pine needle dropped from this behemoth,
or had the temerity to turn even a shade browner. The presents, all empty boxes,
were wrapped with paper decorated with Santa’s and trees and laughing fake snowmen,
all colors and styles to match the decorations nestled among the branches.
It wasn’t tacky, not a bit of it, and Spike marveled at the skill involved to
create something like this—especially since the creator thought looking like
a candy-cane was the height of fashion.
It was hard not
to be introspective, standing there on a Sunday morning, too early for even
the most industrious of employees to be about, coping a few hours of overtime.
All the lights dimmed down so it still seemed like night, something Spike still
marveled at no longer fearing. It was quiet, too, the quiet of a winter snowfall,
frozen droplets of water blanketing over everything to create a hush that felt
warm and fuzzy, even if you were outside freezing fingers and toes off. Spike
loved a good snowfall, the way white stretched out over everything so you couldn’t
distinguish one part of the world from another.
“No snow in L.A.”
“Yeah.” He wasn’t
surprised to hear Angel come up beside him, or for him to know what Spike was
thinking about. “Miss it, sometimes.”
“Me, too. But
not the digging out, or attempting to go anywhere without slipping and
falling on your ass.”
Spike rolled his
eyes. “Trying to create a mood, here, you pillock. Don’t ruin it for me.”
But there was no real heat behind the words. Habit and petty annoyance, nothing
more. “Ever think about going back?”
“What, to London?”
The question honestly shocked Angel, something Spike didn’t know he could still
do. Thought they’d gotten to inured to each other that nothing they’d say would
cause real, genuine surprise. Or maybe Spike was just being a tad on the bitter
side. “It’s not my home, Spike.”
“Not mine, neither.
Doesn’t mean that sometimes. . .”
Angel sighed, soft
breath of a sound that was so incredibly Angel that Spike could’ve laughed.
Didn’t, though. Just tried not to analyze why that sound was so familiar and
what that wasn’t making him feel. “Strange for vampires to get homesick.”
This time Spike
did snort. “Been watching too much Oprah, there. Not homesick. Just.
. .too many Americans.”
“That sounds pretty
much like homesick to me, Spike,” Angel said caustically, but then he was shifting
and his voice softening, so Spike didn’t get uppity the way he probably should’ve.
He wasn’t gonna take that tone from Angel, especially with no lackeys around
to play nice with. “Also, note the use of the plural. Vampires.”
Ah. So Angel did
get it. Shouldn’t be surprised, really, since underneath all of the angst and
bullshit they’d created for themselves, Spike knew they weren’t that dissimilar.
The soul helped, of course, but where Angel needed it for this kind of thing,
Spike. . . Spike just accepted it. Shiny new excuse for what he’d always known.
“What about Galway?”
he asked after a while. “Hop one of your fancy jets, take a midnight stroll
down memory lane an’ all that.”
“Maybe stop, join
in that civil war a little, yeah? See if I can help make the English shove
off for good?”
The accent always
came back at the weirdest times. It was never really gone, if you listened
the right way, but Spike was so used to Angel busily denying everything he was
or had ever been that it was a bit of shock when the rough-smooth voice he still
heard in his dreams reappeared. Meant that Angel was really lost in the memory,
too, and Spike hadn’t thought he’d be given that courtesy. Not since he appeared
screaming and panting at Angel’s feet, anyway. Not since Angel made it clear
what he thought of Spike’s soul.
“Nah. Why would
I go, Spike? See all the places I’ve polluted? Pick out the cobblestone street
where the beautiful highborn lady stopped me, with me too drunk to want more
than a tumble in the nearest barn? It’s just blood.”
“Don’t you get
tired of being gloomy all the damned time? Forget about all the people we’ve
“I can’t, Spike.
I never will be able to. And if you—”
“—and look at
what it was like before.” Annoyed at the interruption and Angel’s thickheadedness,
Spike finally turned and glared at him. “It’s not just about the flaming bodies,
alright? But it’s sixty sodding degrees and sunny, not a hint of ice or cold,
and what the hell is Christmas without snow on the bloody ground?”
Spike loved Christmas.
Alive, dead, it’d never mattered to him—at least until Sunnydale—because he’d
always been able to spend it with someone he loved. There were always presents
and carols and good times to be had, and this year he didn’t even have a bunch
of world-saving brats to admit they actually thought he was kinda cute, and
give him little pressies. Instead he was here. With sodding Angel,
who was so much like Scrooge that he could’ve been—and possibly was—the
model Dicken’s used for the character.
And Angel, blast
the man, knew all that. He’d bothered Spike something fierce when the love
of Christmas first came out, and it was only Dru’s enjoyment that made him stop.
He knew it now, too, giving Spike that damned appraising look that was judge,
jury, and bloody executioner all at once, the look Spike hated more than any
other in the small repertoire Angel drew from. The one that said ‘worthless’
and ‘child’ and ‘inconvenience’.
Except the look
wasn’t quite as disdainful as usual, and as Spike watched it melted into something
he’d never seen before and couldn’t even hope to decode. With a twitch that
could’ve been a grin, Angel turned back to stare at Lorne’s masterpiece of a
tree. “Used to love carolers,” he said quietly. “Americans never do that right.
And none of ’em know Good King Wenceslas.”
“Carol of the Bells,”
Spike retorted. “And we’re not doing that here.”
“I used to be able
to do a good—”
“Over my dusty
ashes, Angel. No singing.”
This time the twitch
was definitely a smile, and the hostility and yes, all right, desperation
from before began to fade. Angel was never good at apologies, so Spike had
learned to take them wherever he could find them. A grin was as good as the
words, far as he was concerned, probably better.
“Right. No singing.”
“You know,” Angel
said after a moment. “We’ve got some weather-workers down in Fred’s department.
They’re not very reliable, but I could probably drop in a word that snow might
be appreciated. . .make the boss feel welcome, that kind of thing.”
“You’d do that,
“Might. If there’s
Which was Angel’s
ham-handed way of saying ‘yes’, Spike knew. So unless the weather-workers hit
a snag, there’d be snow this year, for Christmas. In L.A. All because he’d
asked for it. Huh. That was. . . decent of Angel. Almost generous, one might
say, as if Angel perhaps cared for him. Or at least wanted to do something
nice for him.
“Gonna get me a
porche, too?” he asked, because he wouldn’t be Spike if he didn’t try and take
more than he was being given.
Angel cuffed him.
“Right, fine, a
Beemer. Leather interior.”
stomped away, shouting, “Go to bed, Spike!” over his shoulder.
Spike thought about
saying something snarky about Angel not being his Da, but didn’t. Just stared
at the tree, again, watching as light turned the needles so rich they almost
glowed. And thinking that maybe this Christmas wouldn’t suck after all.